In a true story of dirty tricks, lawsuits, bullying corporations and media manipulation, Fredrik Gertten’s enthralling and fascinating documentary Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is every bit a corporate thriller as any Hollywood fiction film. Out in UK cinemas 21 September 2012 and making its UK premiere at the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival, this is an extraordinary David and Goliath story of multi-national, corporate media manipulation.
Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is not exactly a sequel but a companion piece to Gertten’s previous film Bananas!*, the story of 12 Nicaraguan banana plantation workers who sued Dole Foods over their use of potentially harmful chemicals. Selected to screen at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Gertten receives a message that the film has been pulled by the organisers from competition. Next is a damning article in the Los Angeles Business Journal and then a letter from Dole’s lawyers threatening legal action. What follows is not a courtroom drama, but a deft examination of Dole’s explicit tactics and also their subversive media schemes not only to have the film banned but to blacken the reputation of everyone involved in the film.
Gertten meticulously captures the whole process – from Dole’s attack on the producers, to the media-manipulation and PR campaign – with interviews and footage. But most of all this is a film about Fredrik Gertten and how precarious his life as a documentary filmmaker became at the hands of a large corporation; how his professional reputation and the status of his company came under international scrutiny.